Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Walking Really Exercise?

Ask just about anyone if walking is considered exercise and the first word on their lips will most likely be "yes!". For others, this 'yes' may be followed by reflective pause, realizing that there are many components to exercising, and they might add "it depends". It's true - it does depend, which is why exercise physiologist and author Tom Holland makes the bold assertion that "walking is not exercise" in his new book entitled“Beat the Gym".

While it is true that walking is a great way to get in some physical activity, and it does burn calories, the number of calories that get torched depends on the speed, duration and intensity of the walk in addition to terrain factors - are you walking up and down hills? How steep are they? Are you walking through sand or on pavement? So many factors can influence the impact of walking on your overall health, and whether or not it would count as exercise. In defense of his earlier statement, Holland added “It really comes down to simple math...The caloric expenditure of walking is simply not enough to counterbalance food intake. A 140-pound person walking at 4 miles per hour burns roughly 288 calories in one hour. That's about 4 Oreos worth.” Whether or not that is significant to you is another question.

Walking is a great way for the elderly to stay in shape as it is a weight bearing activity that is also low impact, but experts will assert that "window shopping" isn't enough - you need some pep in your step! Holland also agrees that walking is also a good option if you have a lot of weight to lose, want to maintain basic cardiovascular health or are de-conditioned, injured or just beginning an exercise program. However, for larger, more intense goals and "radical body transformations", walking for hours on end may just be a waste of time if you could be performing more rigorous physical activity and blasting way more calories.

Most people think that walking or jogging burns way more calories than it actually does. So while it has its amazing health benefits and should by no means avoided or eliminated from a healthy active routine, it might be time to consider adding in a little more intensity if you've got bigger calorie burning goals!